Updated from 12:54 p.m. ESTEnergy prices moved up Friday as snow hit the Northeast and forecasts indicated continuing cold weather for the weekend, suggesting demand will be higher for gas heat. Prices for February-dated crude oil futures closed up $1.51 at $51.99 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The February contract terminates Monday and so spot market activity now switches to the March contract, which closed at $53.40, up $1.59. Other energy products were also up. Natural gas added 57 cents to $6.89 per million British thermal units. Heating oil was up 4 cents at $1.51 a gallon, and gasoline was ahead by 4 cents at $1.40 a gallon. Despite the gains during the session, spot crude prices are now down from around $60 at year-end, and some observers say this is probably troubling decision-makers at oil companies. "This must be causing the greatest angst, we suspect, among
"The warm weather in the first part of January and slowing economic activities have curbed
North American oil demand growth," stated OPEC in its Monthly Oil Market Report. Elsewhere, new data from the International Energy Agency showed OECD oil consumption dropped 0.6% in 2006 as higher prices curbed demand, The Wall Street Journal reports. Turning to the energy complex, Duke Energy ( DUK) was ahead by 0.3%, after Lehman Brothers reiterated an overweight rating. In addition, Lehman gave a nod to Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources ( CNQ), again reiterating an overweight rating. The stock rose 1.8%. The energy exchange-traded funds, iPath Goldman Sachs Crude Oil Index ( OIL) and U.S. Oil ( USO) were up 3.3% and 2.8%, respectively.